LETTERS / Concerns About Proposed Asphalt Plant on U.S. 421

Published Monday, June 8, 2015 at 9:57 am

Dear Editor,

The Watauga County Commissioners are considering the development of a Maymead asphalt plant on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway section of Highway 421 just outside of the town of Boone. This is the second Maymead asphalt plant in Watauga County (they have an existing plant on Highway 105.) And they have another asphalt plant in Jefferson, less than 30 miles from the asphalt plant in Boone. The addition of a third asphalt plant in the area – to be located on a scenic gateway to the High Country – approximately 15 miles from either of two existing plants – is a concern for everyone in the county.

The addition of a high-impact asphalt plant on Highway 421 as visitors enter Boone is a significant change in the land-use for that location – transforming the existing rock recycler to high-impact asphalt plant. It places an asphalt plant within two miles of two schools – Parkway and Two Rivers. It places an asphalt plant near Rocky Knob Park and near a large number of private homes and farms. It transforms the state-designated scenic byway – the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic byway that serves as the gateway to the High Country – into an industrial zone.

My question for residents of the county – is this the best place for this asphalt plant? If so, why is the location of an asphalt plant on the scenic gateway to the High Country the best for the county? I’d like the Watauga County Commissioners – the stewards of economic development within the county – to explain the benefits all in the county gain by transforming the gateway to the High Country into an industrial zone.

That’s why I’ve asked the Watauga County Commissioners for a public hearing to specifically address their goals for high-impact development within the county. Dan Soucek and the state legislature have made it clear that any property owner outside of the town of Boone needs to look to the Watauga County Commissioners as the stewards of responsible development. Building an asphalt plant on a scenic byway, near multiple homes and farms, within two miles of two local schools, indicates the direction the Commissioners wish to take development of the county: high-impact plants in highly visible and populated areas.

The public should have an opportunity to share their concerns about the addition of a high-impact asphalt plant located on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway – and the Commissioners should also have the opportunity to share their views on how the county as a whole benefits from this radical transformation to the gateway of the High Country.

Last month, the County Commissioners released a draft proposal of their Deep Gap Gateway Corridor Strategy[1]. In that proposal, the planning board listed four goals for this Gateway that is to be home of Maymead’s newest asphalt plant:

Goal #1: Maximize preservation of views

Goal #2: Encourage compact development.

Goal #3: Preserve vitality of the existing highway

Goal #4: Encourage Appropriate Appearance Standards – as per the strategy: “Discourage heavy industry, outdoor storage, extraction of raw materials.”

It would seem that an asphalt plant on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway does not align with the County’s own strategic goals. Because the County is in the midst of developing its own economic development strategy for this specific location, it is unclear why the Watauga County Commissioners are allowing development of a high-impact facility that is so clearly not aligned with its own proposed Deep Gap Gateway strategic development goals.

What can you do? If you want toxic asphalt fumes to welcome visitors to the High Country as they drive in from the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Byway section of Highway 421, sit tight – it’s coming.

If, however, you feel that the development of an asphalt plant on the scenic gateway to the High Country is wrong…

WRITE TO THE COMMISSIONERS

  • Jimmy Hodges – jimmy.Hodges@watgov.org
  • Billy Kennedy – Billy.Kennedy@watgov.org
  • David Blust – David.Blust@watgov.org
  • Perry Yates- Perry.Yates@watgov.org
  • John Welch – John.Welch@watgov.org

Please sign the Change.org petition calling for a moratorium on new asphalt plants: http://www.change.org/p/concerned-citizens-of-watauga-county-call-for-a-moratorium-on-new-asphalt-plants.

Find out more information about this issue at http://www.highcountrywatch.com. High Country Watch is hosting an organizational meeting at the Watauga Humane Society on June 10 at 7pm for any interested citizens.

And please consider providing public comment at the next Watauga County Commissioners hearing, where the Commissioners will be voting on the new high-impact regulations for the county. If you own property outside of the town of Boone and have ANY concerns at all about the kind of development the Commissioners will allow in your community, please attend this meeting.

This will be held Tuesday, June 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Watauga County Administration Building located at 814 West King Street, Boone, North Carolina

Ask the Commissioners for a public hearing to debate the benefits of building an asphalt plant on the Doc and Merle Watson Scenic Highway.

Also ask the Commissioners for a temporary moratorium on high-impact development until the County’s needs and economic development strategy are more clearly defined for the public.

Outside of the town of Boone, responsible development of the county rests in the hands of the Watauga County Commissioners. As residents of Watauga County, all of us have a stake in this issue. Please let your voice be heard.

Anne Ward

Concerned resident of Watauga County

[1] Deep Gap Corridor Strategy document. Retrieved from: https://www.hcpress.com/img/DEEP-GAP-GATEWAY-CORRIDOR-STRATEGY.pdf

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